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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Forumitis: 'I only play for fun.'

Oldest excuse in the book. Everybody's heard this at least once, but really, that's all it is - an excuse.

You're playing to win, but you agreed to the game because it's fun.

How does that make sense? We'll get there in a minute. First, a story.
Back in the ancient days of the early 90's, there existed a little company called Games workshop. It was a tiny, tiny company, but because it was the only company of its kind, it quickly became top dog.

Not surprisingly, really, since - you know - no competition means you'll be the only supplier and provider of whatever you're pushing. Back then, Games workshop pushed plastic men, some boardgames, basic paints, and little else. It was the dark ages of gaming, but things were simple.
In the shadowy era of 1998, the world would be turned upside down, for GW had a masterplan: release a game that could spearhead tournaments, and thus lead to massive, massive revenues, new model lines, the need for players to update their armies on a cyclical basis, and more. Saying it didn't work out would be an understatement, but why didn't it work out?

At the time, Games workshop had many employees, but of the original crew, only one remains, and his is the name that will forever be remembered by nerds everywhere for past transgression.
Jervis Johnson, failmaster supreme, high priest of the cult of beer and pretzel games. If Jervis was in charge of FIFA, scoring anything except ties would be punishable by death.

You see, Jervis hates winning with a burning passion.
To Jervis, winning a game - let alone playing to win - is comparable to murder, and any desire to win must be purged from humanity before we'll advance as a species.

True greatness comes from forced ties, gallons of booze, and 'just having plain, old fun with yer figurines an' lil' men.'
For reasons unknown, Jervis still is, and always has been, the man in charge of everything related to tournaments and competitive play. Yeah, in hindsight, that probably wasn't such a great idea. Even without hindsight it was a stupid move!

Not only did Jervis construct the tourney template we all love to hate (sports, appearance, battle), he's been a (not so) secret advocator of comp, too. Of course, GW's forced him to retract this support - officially, too.
Then came the throne of skulls (tm), and - well, people weren't pleased.
Note: this is happening in a day and age where competitive cardgames generate more money than the finest of the finest 'beer and pretzel' tabletop games, competitive Starcraft and Counter-strike are aired on TV in certain countries (South Korea - YouTube it), and GW's own game systems are more balanced and refined than ever before.

Not only is mister Johnson outright stupid for resisting his company's obvious attempt to capitalize on the competitive wave, but he's also rather foolish, and has zero actual victories worth anything to his credit this far in time.
It's no secret I'm pushing for Abaddon's name to be changed to Jervisddon the Johnson, to mimic the real-life inspiration behind such a great, successful, inspiring, and respectable villain.

Thanks to 12+ years of Jervis governing the temple, 'playing to win' in warhams is popuarly considered cheating.
Being the better list builder (read: having the better understanding of the game) is a bad thing, and don't you dare force people to follow the rules, play official missions, or use effective units. Doing any of these three things make you a WAAC jerk - the scum of the earth.

In short, winners aren't wanted by JJ or his followers, and any such individuals will be cast out into the dirt - branded WAAC, cheater, haxx, dicelord, cheesemaster, powergamer, and other colorfol, negative nicknames.
This is how Jervis wants it.
It's also how the people in charge of BALSCON and Adepticon want it. Why?
It is relevant to their interests.
A truly good player will never enter one of these events.
Should he or she chose to do so, the player must know certain specific rules - rules that have nothing whatsoever to do with the game being played.
Softscores, blowjob scores, 'rate your opponents,' painting, army composition, actual comp, 'spam penalties...' The list is long, intimidating and, as we're about to see shortly, in effect worthless.

When entering a game, you are there to win. This is hard fact. Your reptile brain makes it impossible for you to not aim for a win. Does it guarantee wins? Heavens, no - but it makes it so you crave victory.
This is why, after games, even people who say 'well, I play just for fun!' get pissed as all hell, even though they just threw up the 'for fun'-excuse.

See, that special part of your brain doesn't know why the game was lost or won. It can tell win and defeat apart, yes, but isn't advanced enough to know what, exactly, happened.
Just that the leafblower rolled your footdat off the board in two turns.

This makes you feel bad.
If it happens on a daily basis, merely mentioning the game makes you sour and cranky. 'case you didn't know, this is how your body handles repeated losses.
You get very tense, and whenever warham's brought up, it's all beardy cheese WAAC DAVU falcons and thundershields on cav with ID-immunity(!!!!).
Basically, the back of your brain is telling the front of your brain that it sucks ass, and needs to start producing results. It does this by attacking perceived imbalances, preferably things that have beaten you down lately, in an attempt to stimulate a creative, functional response against them ('Use transports against the tyranids, you idiot!').

Bear in mind, these things may not necessarily be powerful, or even make sense.

Chances are, you've heard something like that uttered at least once.
So, what does it mean? Players like that are dealing with repetead loss, the caveman side of their brain trying its best to make their thinking brain come up with a solution - and it almost never does! Why?
To beat something, you have to compete. Competing is evil, says JJ, and he's fostered this in the players for so long, the only ways out are rehab and enlightenment.

"If I don't take the lolords and Eldratar, I suddenly don't have to fear bloodclaws rapin' my line, and get more points for mobile shit, shooty shit, and bette- different shit! I can roll in my falcons, shootin' lance hate at their 'raider, laughing at the futile efforts of the 'claws to mess up my floating crib! Oh, wow..." An inner monologue like that's what made me discard Jervis' teachings, but it was over my tau, and their supposed inability to ever score a win against sisters of battle.

Eventually, we all come to this very important point - a crossroads of sorts.
One sign points to 'deal with it the way humanity's always dealt with problems,' while the other says 'ebay or box away your models.'
Not surprisingly, most find JJ's teachings too strong and sacred to deface, readily boxing up their precious, plastic men.

The rare few who stick to it are changed individuals (see above examples). You know this, how you used to play, and think certain things were unbeatable, 'cheese,' or 'not fit to be in a hobby game played for fun.'
At the end of the day, we're all only human, and humans are very competitive. You could say it's in our blood, but that's not even half of it.
Humans are made to win, no matter the cost.

It's how we operate, and approach everything.
We enter games, because games are fun.
Fun they may be - we're still there to win. Winning is the objective, and what you and your opponent are 'fighting' over in the first place.

Winning games. What does this mean?
Games? A game, by definition, is 'a contest with rules to determine a winner.' And there's the gold, me mateys.

If we go to war, it's everything and the kitchen sink. If it's soccer or warhams, we strictly follow very basic rules, but it's still about deciding a winner and a loser.
This is common knowledge, isn't it? Yes, it is.
Yet, everytime someone realizes this piece of 'common knowledge,' Jervis pulls his arms off in anger.

Because we're not simple beasts, there's more to games than winning them. Remember, kids - winning is just the objective.
The true meat is in the challenge. What's 'challenge?'

"It was such a tough, hardcore, superfun game, where we fought over this ruined bunker just outside my deployment, and it was the last turn, with straken, two guardsmen, swarmlord, and 30 gants left, but I was so close to getting Straken raped by the 30 gants, but then he rolled really poorly, and I WOUNDED ALL OF MY ATTACKS! GANTS WENT EXPLODEY INTO LITTLE BITS! And then he measured synapse, they were an inch too far from the swarmlord, and I RAN ALL OF THEM DOWN IN ONE MOVE!!!!!!!!"

That's challenge.
It's not something you can directly measure. You have it, or you don't. Yeah, it's a very individual thing, but you know it when you see it. This is important.
By definition, winning and losing get very boring if that's all you're ever gonna get (routine: win, lose, what's the difference in the long run?), but challenge is what keeps you coming back for more - weekly.

Once you find players (or a player) who can provide challenge, your game automatically starts to improve. It's a natural response to a superior foe. Beating her or him isn't enough - you must become even better, with never-before seen moves, tactics, and a bigger stack of knowledge.
This is the most fun aspect in all games, and why it feels less good to win against a babyseal, than it does losing to a pro. The pro offers you challenge, and the seal doesn't.
Winning feeds your reptile brain, but it does little for the rest of your mind. The caveman in you doesn't care who you're winning against, but your higher functions feel unsatisfied, and understimulated.

So, in summary: losers are sour and sore. Winners are happy. Players who experience challenge are content, regardless of winning or losing.
Now, if we take an entire group of winners that duel with challenge, and put them all in one location, Jervis tells us shit be real, the universe is gonna explode, and no one would ever find that fun.

Well, let's just say it didn't turn out as the high priest of comp and 'fun' 'hobby events' predicted.

Actually, let's look at just how it all went down, for comparision.

Drama? None.
Extremely pretty armies? Yes.
Winners fighting winners until only one remained? Yes.
A little 'everybody's a winner!'-price? No.
Any sour faces? None have been reported.

Yes, Jervis, adults who play by the rules to win make less of a mess than the manchildren you enroll in your official tourneys for 'playing for fun,' as well as those sucked up in the BALS vacuum.

The comp and JJ brigade will naturally come forth now, summoned from their ivory towers of fluffy bunnies by this perceived cry of war, but are you really going to argue with the actual definition of 'game?' No? Yeah, didn't think so, either.

I do have a fairly legit question, however.

It's okay for them to whine - over and over - that winners need to play 'fluffy,' or 'soft lists,' yes? Apparently, this is a-okay - fair enough. Well, here's my question.

Why can't all you losers learn how to win instead, so we'll both feel challenged?

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